The gap junction channel protein connexin 43 is covalently modified and regulated by SUMOylation

J Biol Chem. 2012 May 4;287(19):15851-61. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M111.281832. Epub 2012 Mar 12.


SUMOylation is a posttranslational modification in which a member of the small ubiquitin-like modifier (SUMO) family of proteins is conjugated to lysine residues in specific target proteins. Most known SUMOylation target proteins are located in the nucleus, but there is increasing evidence that SUMO may also be a key determinant of many extranuclear processes. Gap junctions consist of arrays of intercellular channels that provide direct transfer of ions and small molecules between adjacent cells. Gap junction channels are formed by integral membrane proteins called connexins, of which the best-studied isoform is connexin 43 (Cx43). Here we show that Cx43 is posttranslationally modified by SUMOylation. The data suggest that the SUMO system regulates the Cx43 protein level and the level of functional Cx43 gap junctions at the plasma membrane. Cx43 was found to be modified by SUMO-1, -2, and -3. Evidence is provided that the membrane-proximal lysines at positions 144 and 237, located in the Cx43 intracellular loop and C-terminal tail, respectively, act as SUMO conjugation sites. Mutations of lysine 144 or lysine 237 resulted in reduced Cx43 SUMOylation and reduced Cx43 protein and gap junction levels. Altogether, these data identify Cx43 as a SUMOylation target protein and represent the first evidence that gap junctions are regulated by the SUMO system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Connexin 43 / genetics
  • Connexin 43 / metabolism*
  • Gap Junctions / metabolism*
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Lysine / genetics
  • Lysine / metabolism*
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Mutation
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational*
  • Rats
  • SUMO-1 Protein / genetics
  • SUMO-1 Protein / metabolism
  • Small Ubiquitin-Related Modifier Proteins / genetics
  • Small Ubiquitin-Related Modifier Proteins / metabolism
  • Sumoylation
  • Transfection


  • Connexin 43
  • SUMO-1 Protein
  • SUMO2 protein, rat
  • SUMO3 protein, rat
  • Small Ubiquitin-Related Modifier Proteins
  • Lysine